By Darren Isaacs - 29 September 2021
Our intrepid Covid-19 blogger, Darren Isaacs, picks up his blog where he left off as he sets off for 14 days of forced quarantine to visit his family in Australia. In this limited run of Covid Diaries, Travel Edition, he will share some of his travel and quarantine experiences alongside his musings on topical HR issues our clients are facing.
I shall continue the story of my adventure, picking up where I last finished: arrival in Brisbane.
The flight landed at around 8.30pm local time and we disembarked just like on any other flight. The arrivals hall was largely deserted, aside from around 30 police officers in various guises. With only about 12 passengers on the entire flight, our bags arrived almost immediately. I love an easy win.
We collected our bags and then proceeded through customs. I had already completed my customs form and all the biosecurity questions. This is always challenging. The problem I have, which I have had for the past 20 odd years, is that I read questions on forms like a lawyer reading legislation or drafting a contract. I’m a fan of precise words. I don’t go for vagueness with a “you know what we really mean, even if the form isn’t clear” attitude. So when the form says you can’t import seeds, I declare a muesli bar. Just in case. The last thing I want is to be banged up abroad because I forgot to mention a snack in my hand-luggage. My outpouring of honesty resulted in me being pulled aside for the full search treatment, sniffer dog and all. I knew, deep down, that I was not an international drug mule – yet it was still strangely stressful, nonetheless. I passed and, as a bonus, I got to keep my muesli bar.
After customs, we proceeded to a special Covid-19 arrival room. More police. One row of temporary desks to check in at and receive a printed quarantine direction. Confusion when I say that I do not normally live in Australia nor have an Australian mobile phone number. I guess they just don’t get international visitors like they used to. On the plus side, they were extremely friendly and welcoming (obviously after I passed my biosecurity drama).
The same quarantine direction form is then emailed by the police to (I think) the State government health department. This would be fine, but for the fact that the very same government department had set up its own row of desks about 10 metres away from the police, in the same room. They print the quarantine direction off again and give me another copy, in case I lost the first one in the 5 seconds it took me to walk across the room. It reminded me of the time I went to a park in St Petersburg in 1998, purchased an entry ticket and then had to hand it over to a (separate) ticket collector official who was standing about 2 meters away at the time and watched me buy my ticket. Officials do love their processes.
I have not yet mentioned that Australia currently has the travel restrictions of Gilead. Travel into the country is largely reserved for Australian citizens (with the usual exceptions for diplomats, politicians, VIPs, etc). To get into the country you need to make a declaration to the Federal government. You also need to apply to leave again (I told you it was like Gilead). Same questions, same department, new form. You then also need to make a declaration to the State government – same questions again, but of course another form. No risk of data sharing here, then.
Which brings me to today’s thought. The GDPR. How could I forget it? I like data privacy, but I have to confess that I wish the various government people could just talk to each other and cut me out of the loop a bit. Surely more efficient than asking people to provide the same data over and over again in endless almost-identical forms. Yes, I know that this is Australia and there is no GDPR as such, but I might ask the ICO to give them a bell anyway and suggest some tips.
If you are a HR professional or internal counsel who has to deal with GDPR, don’t forget to keep and eye on what the ICO wants to do now that we have left the EU. The most important thing currently is the ICO’s consultation on simplifying the UK’s GDPR legislation. You can read a quick summary here. I am all in favour of simplification, but I dread the EU telling us that we have gone too far and now no longer have “adequate” data privacy laws, which will mean mountains of paperwork in drafting new data transfer agreements and so forth. Ugh. We can all live without that.
If you would like to read more Covid diary entires please click here.